Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. grew up on the King Ranch in South Texas and attended school in Corpus Christi. He was a grandson of Captain Richard King, the founder of the King Ranch, and the son of Robert J. Kleberg, Sr., a lawyer and a pioneer in Texas agriculture and animal science. When his father became ill, young Robert “Bob” Kleberg, Jr. cut his education short at the University of Wisconsin and returned to South Texas to manage the family ranch. He was subsequently named president of the ranch after his father’s death and served in that capacity for over 40 years, until his death in 1974.
After working on the ranch for several years, Bob met and married Helen Mary Campbell, the daughter of lawyer and Congressman Philip Pitt Campbell and Helen Goff Campbell. Although raised in the metropolitan atmosphere of Washington, D.C., where she served as the secretary of the Junior League, Helen possessed a life-long love of the outdoors, particularly horses and riding, and quickly adapted to ranch life.
Known as a visionary and a keen observer, Bob led a full and successful life. During his career, he originated the Santa Gertrudis breed of beef cattle, was a master breeder of both quarter horses and thoroughbreds, was a pioneer for wildlife conservation, and provided the impetus and funds for agricultural and scientific research in varied fields worldwide. He firmly believed that, “life is an expression of what you are,” and sought to teach others to always look for the bigger picture through widening one’s view. Helen was involved in the interests of her husband as well as a multitude of her own causes. She assisted Bob in preparing for speeches at various venues at which he was invited to speak. Being widely read and passionate about the arts, she introduced Bob to author and artist, Tom Lea. She studied both ancient and modern art and taught her daughter, Helenita, through the seventh grade. Throughout her life, she was known for her creativity, strength, independence, and determination.
Bob and Helen’s legacy of philanthropy grew from a shared passion for cultural, civic, and environmental issues, which continues today through the establishment of their family foundation, the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation.